Windows Azure Platform Now Open for Business

There were some bumps along the way today (like the SQL team saying things were ready for purchase, but there were now Buy Now buttons on the portal for several hours afterwards, and the Billing link went either nowhere or to Microsoft Online Services with no Azure services listed), but… it’s now open for business.  CTP accounts continue to be free until the end of Jan.  See information about the billing on-ramp.

If you on the Azure CTP and you purchase an offer on the Microsoft Online Services site with the same Live ID that you already use for your CTP, then your CTP account will be associated with that plan, so tread carefully.

See my previous entry and the links therein, especially if you are a partner or MSDN subscriber – this isn’t a half bad summary of the options.

Microsoft’s Opening Package Offers for the Windows Azure Platform

Today is the official launch date for Windows Azure Platform and Microsoft is offering 4 packages:

  • $0 – Introductory Special – A (not very useful) level of free consumption until June 30 2010
  • $59.95 – Development Accelerator Core
  • $109.95 – Development Accelerator Extended
  • $Varies – Consumption – pay for what you use

Check out the official comparison table.

For a minute, I thought Microsoft was really serious about promoting this, but the Introductory Special is somewhat pointless – it’s more of a discount or minor test package.  It includes 25 computer hours which is just over one day of operation per month on one node – think of it as one free day on one node.  It does come with 1GB of SQL Azure, but that’s also only for 3 months :(.  There’s also 100,000 AppFabric messages and a measly 1/2 GB of data transfer in/out.  So, you can do some testing with this, although if you are an MSDN subscriber you have addition options.

Now the next two packages are better with both packages offering 750 hours of Windows Azure compute time which equates to 1 node for a month, e.g. a website.  The Extended plan includes a 10GB SQL Azure database, normally priced as $99.95 per month on its own.

The Consumption plan is apparently what you pay if you go over the included quantities.  With some other providers, the overage fees go down as one moves to higher pre-paid packages.

Microsoft can beat other providers when it comes to the SQL Azure offering.  Other providers, who have to license SQL Server to customers through Microsoft’s Service Provider License Agreement, may pay Microsoft over $200 a month for a SQL Standard processor license.  Microsoft is offering a 1GB SQL Server for $9.99 per month and $10GB for $99.99.

I need to do further analysis on provider price comparisons in the future.  I make solid use of GoGrid who consider themselves an infrastructure provider and Microsoft to be a platform provider, though they both offer cloud computing.  With GoGrid, I do all the server admin (while they provide cloud nodes, network, admin UI/API and other services) while Microsoft is aiming to cover lots of the redundancy infrastructure automatically.

In addition to these offers and the MSDN subscriber offer, there’s also a special rate version of the 3 paid plans for Microsoft Partner Network members – currently stated as being 5% off the regular rates (but not applying to data transfer or Windows Azure storage).  It’s not clear yet how all these offers/packages operate together if at all.  Do the MSDN subscriptions provided with Partner accounts each qualify?  According to the notes on the offer pages for migration a CTP account to, “Your CTP account(s) are automatically associated with the first offer you purchase with that Windows Live ID.”

I have not yet received any information on how to upgrade to a commercial account and the Billing link on the portal goes to the Microsoft Online Services portal which doesn’t show anything about Azure.  I can hear the Microsoft elves sweating right now along with the patter of tiny feet to refill the free soft drinks 🙂

P.S.  Hopefully the grammer elves will ‘shoot’ the ignorant Microsoft website elves using the phrase “a …savings” 😛

Windows Azure Platform Goes Live Today

Today is the day for Azure to go live.

What this means (according to communicating to Community Technology Preview participants) is that Microsoft should start issuing instructions this week on how to move from CTP to a commercial account.

It’s also not clear yet, how the relationship will work yet (and there are some broken links from the Azure portal) between billing, portal account and login ID, but I imagine there needs to be Live IDs for the billing accounts and then permitted administrator Live IDs for the portal.

The Windows Azure Platform continues to be free until Feb 1 2010, during the first billing on-ramp phase.

If you are interested in giving Windows Azure a spin while it’s still free in January then you may want to try this Azure deployment guide with included sample application, successfully used by hundreds of people.

More posts soon on some of the insights of building a Silverlight application and hosting it on Windows Azure…

2010 New-Year Prediction: Silverlight + Azure = The New Windows

It has probably not escaped many of you that Windows’ market share (and that of related editions) is being eroded and is potentially under threat to varying extents in some markets as we role into 2010. 

  • iPhone is whipping ‘Windows phones’ such that Windows Mobile 7 will likely be a do or die mission in in 2010 (or more realistically 2011)
  • Android is nibbling at Windows phones too
  • Zune is nowhere near iPhone
  • Netbooks with non-Windows OS installs are creeping into the remaining markets
  • Mac is constantly barking its commercials
  • LAMP is still thriving
  • Google is trying to satisfy basic user requirements will a wafer-thin OS or by being OS-independent

I think however, that Microsoft has the opportunity to really drive adoption of Windows, but not in the way it has before.  The real opportunity for Windows’ continued prosperity lies in the cloud.  Even though this may happen, I do not however think it will be seen as a success – at least not initially (and doomsayers for Windows will jump on this).  The resulting public attitude will probably really grate at Microsoft for some time.

The money may continue to stream in because Microsoft has (or is now planning) a story whereby more people can begin to use, or will continue to use Windows but it would be more so Windows Azure (not the client OS) and they will not be paying for it directly.  The indirect payment may lead to less consumer-based visibility, which may create a negative trend in public opinion (which is what matters in today’s Internet-temperature-measured society).  Few people care how their cool app works.  Azure may be a great back-end for a web-based iPhone app, but it would probably be seen as a point for iPhone/Apple, not Windows/Microsoft.

Microsoft has a ‘Good, Better, Best’ mantra for client richness, but it has previously focused its attention on the ‘Best’, aka Windows ‘proper’.

An application with a Windows 7 client and a Windows Server + Windows SQL Server back (and other servers), and perhaps Office apps as optional clients, is the ideal for Microsoft revenues, but Microsoft is starting to see that serving the ‘Better’ experience is necessary and potentially even more profitable if they can’t get you to effectively subscribe to a ‘Windows’ license by helping to make sure your application/service provider uses Azure.  These providers are paying the real fees to Microsoft while collecting their own revenue stream from users through fees and/or ad-supported revenues.

Silverlight equates to a compact yet rich UI experience that will broaden in future versions and is, or will be, available on many platforms, serving as a great gateway to the Windows Azure Platform.  WPF applications on Windows available via ClickOnce installations (or as XAPs via IE/Firefox) also represent revenue suckers on the tentacles to Azure.    Ray Ozzie flat-out said at PDC09 that Internet Explorer 9 and Silverlight (preferably on Windows 7 of course) are the future for all 3 screens.  That of course leaves IE9 on Windows (or the lesser IE versions on other Windows platforms) or other browsers as the ‘Good’ option which again can also be services on the back-end by Windows Server or Windows Azure.

Microsoft has of course already been collecting service-provider style licensing fees via its SPLA program.  My company has been a licensee for some time in fact.  A cohesive and (almost, but not quite yet) affordable cloud offering for small ISVs opens up the flood gates to licensing Windows (in it’s Azure form, along with SQL Azure) to many more end users who can be consuming ‘Windows’ on any platform, even a Google Chrome browser.

To make this work, Microsoft really needs to up its game for developers in terms of tools and offerings…

It doesn’t help that Silverlight tool support in Visual Studio has been non-existent; forget Expression Blend that developers haven’t had the time or perhaps money to conquer.  WPF applications have also been few and far between; likely for similar tool-support reasons.

Visual Studio 2010 may be just in time, and Microsoft is clearly taking no chances, having recently announced a delay to the RTM in order to improve performance.  This is the first version of the IDE using WPF and Microsoft can’t have poor IDE performance be the reason that developers shun VS2010 en mass.  Adoption of 2010 is crucial because Microsoft has invested energy into integrating tools for their new technologies/platforms and making them easier to target (e.g. SharePoint 2010 and Azure).  The announced delay seems like the smartest move to me.

The included Azure consumption units being added to MSDN Subscription are a tiny and insufficient token.  The initial offering for the highest level subscribers covers one Windows Azure server for 8 months and then goes down.  This simply isn’t high enough to encourage people to get something off the ground.

Microsoft needs to do well with Windows Mobile 7.  This is rumoured to have a Silverlight-based interface which would be more of a plus if the tools had matured already.  If Microsoft could get all the Internet-connected apps for WM7 to be hosted on Azure, maybe they could give away the WM7 license?  You currently need a non-free Visual Studio edition for client-based Windows Mobile development.  Perhaps adding a free Visual Mobile 2010 Express Edition would help push things along?

So the more precise prediction is that Silverlight+Azure = Windows in terms of revenue to many more end-users (who may not be on Windows or have no prior computer), as well as potentially preventing loss of net revenues if people move off the Windows Client.  It may be hard to measure initially like Obama ‘creating or saving’ x million jobs.  It may not happen in 2010, but the seeds must be sewn in 2010.  The real key advocates for this maneuver are the ISVs and service providers and its (and the predictions) success or failure will ride on motivated these parties are to go down this route as well as how easily they can execute it.  Microsoft has to do more to provide solid timely tools, communicate the benefits, educate developers and provide substantial/usable offers for Azure adoption.  Microsoft has not announced a PDC 2010 which means it falls to Mix (not clearly a transition-to-cloud conference) and TechEd conferences (often seen as more IT Pro than developer), regional evangelism, local evangelism and blogs 😉 to help them along…

Azure Platform Billing On-Ramp

Here’s the timeline for the ramp-up of Azure Platform Services billing:

  • Jan 4 2010 – CTP accounts can be upgraded to commercial accounts in the countries listed below.
  • Feb 1 2010 – Billing starts for upgraded accounts and non-upgraded accounts are disabled with Windows Azure Storage going read-only and no new database creation in SQL Azure. 
  • Mar 1 2010 – non-upgraded SQL Azure databases will be deleted
  • Apr 1 2010 – non-upgraded Windows Azure Storage will be deleted

Available Azure Platform Services billing locations from Jan 2010

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Deploy This Silverlight Application on Windows Azure in 10 minutes – no Tools Required!

This post guides you through the process of deploying and configuring the provided Silverlight application on Windows Azure through the Windows Azure Platform web portal using just your compatible web browser.  You do not need any development tools…

The included Guest Wall application is a Silverlight app hosted in a ASP.NET website that runs on Windows Azure Hosted Services and uses the Windows Azure Cloud Storage to store messages that anyone can post.  You can configure it to some extent as explained below.

image

Continue reading

Microsoft Tech Days Canada

Today was the 2nd and final day of Microsoft’ Tech Days conference in Ottawa (the 6th city on the 7-city tour).  I had the opportunity to speak about two great topics:

What’s new in Silverlight 3

This talk focused on new features in Silverlight 3.  It was clear that many people have yet to take a look at any version of Silverlight.  This made for a fun challenge – trying to explain new features, while also explaining Silverlight basics, and say how it compares to JQuery with HTML 5.  Ottawa’s government-worker-centric population may explain the results of my straw-poll survey with the audience.  The snow-storm in the morning made a little dent in attendance, and given the audience make-up, a general introduction session for Silverlight would likely have received a bigger audience (and would probably still do so a year from now when talking about what’s new in Silverlight 4).

Optimizing your apps for the Windows 7 user experience. 

This session seemed to get a very positive response, most likely due to the fact that the Windows API Code Pack is available which provides managed wrappers to the Windows 7 native APIs such that making use of new Windows 7 features (like the Taskbar) is practically trivial.

 

It was a great experience working with the Microsoft Canada guys and my friends in the community.  I look forward to doing so again next year on topics such as Silverlight 4, Azure, Office 2010, VS2010/.NET 4.0, and hopefully in multiple cities.

PDC09 Announcements – Day 1 Keynote

Blogged live – now complete – curiously Bob Muglia’s closing remarks were cut off on the live feed.  Very much looking forward to the Silverlight stuff tomorrow.

Check out further PDC coverage

Background

  • Everything is about 3 screens (desktop, phone and TV) and the cloud.
  • Day 1 focus – Backend, i.e. Azure.
  • Day 2 focus – Office, Silverlight & Windows focus on Day 2.
  • Microsoft emphasis will be on IE + Silverlight for all 3 screens – desktop, phone and TV.
  • Ray Ozzie wants you to bet on Windows 7, IE8, Silverlight, Windows Azure, SQL Azure, 3 screens and a cloud
  • Bob Muglia talks at length about moving existing applications to the cloud (‘move, enhance, transform’) – partnering with Avanade & Accenture
  • Cloud application aspects being covered at PDC Self-Service, Elastic, Service-Orientated, Federated, Scale-Out, Staged Productions, Always Available, Multi-Tenant, Failure Resilient

Microsoft Announcements

  • Azure platform going live Jan 1 2010, but no charging until Feb 1 2010 – this is not news btw
  • Azure projects are available in Visual Studio 2010
  • Windows Azure has RESTful service APIs to manage configuration
  • Windows Azure Pricing: $0.12ph (1×1.6GHz/1.75MB); $0.24ph (2×1.6GHz/3.5GB); $0.48ph (4×1.6GHz/7.0GB); $0.96ph (8×1.6GHz/14GB)
  • Windows Azure now supports fast CGI support, PHP, MySQL
  • Azure – auto geo-replication in pairs – 3 pairs (NA, EU, Asia) going live in Jan 2010
  • Azure Storage Updating features – entity group transactions, snapshot, copy
  • Azure Storage Accessing features – block blobs, page blobs, leases
  • Azure Storage Serving features – shared access signatures, custom domain names, content delivery network (CDN)
  • Azure Storage – X-Drives – NTFS-like drive access to cloud storage
  • SQL Azure – Fuller DB, T-SQL, Stored Procedures, ADO.NET, works against Excel, support from SQL Server Management Studio (2008 R2)
  • Some customers will be able to go live today including WordPress
  • Microsoft PinPoint – catalogue of products and services targeting developers and IT (showing in Azure portal and partner network, and later into online portal for IT)
  • Codename “Dallas” (completely on Windows Azure and SQL Azure) open catalogue for data (public and commercial) with uniform discovery, trial and licensing – touted as a game-changer
  • ADO.NET Data Services (Astoria) also now known as OData.
  • Project “Sydney” – connects Azure platform to existing private data-centre services together
  • Windows Azure creatable images (with admin access) coming in 2010 (Windows base, customise, snapshot, deploy)
  • AppFabric (Windows Server Beta 1 available now & Windows Azure Beta 1 in 2010) – create high availability, scale-out, multi-tenant, manageable apps (especially using WCF and WF) covering caching, Workflow hosting, monitoring, service bus, service hosting, access control – formerly called “Dublin”?
  • Windows Identify Foundation RTM
  • Go-live license for Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 & .NET Framework 4 beta 2 – this is not news
  • Oslo now SQL Server Modeling Services
  • The stack is now: Applications – Exchange/SharePoint; Dev Tools – VS; Programming Model – .NET Framework; App Services, Windows Server/Azure AppFabric; DB – SQL Server/Azure; OS – Windows Server/Azure; Management – System Center
  • System Center Cloud Beta in 2010
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM in 2010
  • Visual Studio 2010 & .NET 4.0 RTM March 22nd 2009 – this is not news

Demos

  • Seesmic.com demo of Twitter client using Silverlight and for Windows with WPF – will become a platform soon
  • WordPress (who hosts 10 million blogs) demo on Azure and how it can scale easily
  • OddlySpecific.com (from creators of ICanHasCheeseburger, FailBlog & PunditKitchen) launched today on Windows Azure & SQL Azure – also can use CDN
  • Codename “Dallas” – Showing discovery (by catalogue); explore data with REST, AtomPub, etc. and Excel 2010 PowerPivot; demo of service proxy it can build for you; 3D (!!) demo of mars image exploration – underwhelming reaction from audience
  • US Federal Chief Information Officer – talking about democratising information (like GPS and NASA Pathfinder);  http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov; Career finder application on mobile device (via data.gov) – yawn (despite the profound implications)
  • Silly fictional video about the cloud starring Bob Muglia – groan
  • Azure Low-level access (Don Box & Chris Anderson) – Windows Azure application in low-level simple C++ (and assembler!); Azure SQL accepting T-SQL from SMSS to create pdc ‘talks’ table and insert rows; Show OData javascript app (using o-auth wrap to .NET Services Access Control Service) on ‘talks’ table
  • Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com – 14M unique per month in 2 data centres) Silverlight App (showing filtering and zooming) – showing flexible cost model with Windows Azure; less than 1% code-base change plus Azure config file; also using SQL Azure (using same mechanisms as before) and showing SQL Azure Data Sync – most scripted/stiff demo of the keynote.
  • Video of how customers can use Azure platform: Dominoes (peaks on Superbowl and Friday nights); Siemens; RiskMetrics
  • Project “Sydney” demo – connection of Azure application to private data-centre SQL database
  • Increasing functional of the Tailspin travel app (.NET 3.5) with .NET 4.0 and VS 2010 tools: showing VS 2010 multi-monitor; using ASP.NET MVC diagram; adding single sign-on quickly with Windows Identity Foundation (uses AD token service); new find-in-files window; client-side validation with ASP.NET MVC 2; Intellitrace shows trace (e.g. ADO.NET) and allow navigation back to code that produced the trace; add AppFabric to use distributed memory cache feature; automated web-app UI test(!) which shows that the memory cache improved performance; new Windows Workflow 4 designer; AppFabric exposes WF 4 through a web service automatically with tracking UI shown in IIS Manager; MSDeploy integrated with Visual Studio for each single-file publish/deploy (to staging/live)
  • Moving Tailsping travel app (as enhanced above) seamlessly to Azure; creating an app model with designer in VS 2010 by adding web role, AppFabric role and database role and associating with projects; published to Azure (using Windows Identity Foundation to allow federation of AD identity); use System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to monitor Azure application and help check for SLA violations

Azure Platform to Launch Fully in Feb 2010

Windows Azure, SQL Azure and .NET Services will go live as follows, according to a CTP newsletter I just received:

At PDC 2009, on November 17th, 2009, a number of new features in Windows Azure will be made available for the first time. The CTP will remain open through December 31st, allowing you to experiment with the full feature platform and to give us any final feedback.

Beginning January, 2010, new customers will have to sign up for an offer to access services on the Windows Azure platform. You’ll receive your first bill with a $0 balance, so you can see your exact usage while still enjoying free service.

On February 1, 2010, we will begin charging customers for using the Windows Azure platform.

This ‘delay’ from the anticipated commercial launch at PDC, is explained as follows:

Making the transition in these three steps accomplishes a few goals. First, it gives you a chance to explore our full feature set for free. Second, it allows our team time to get your feedback on the new features and address any issues that arise. Finally, it lets you preview exactly how billing will work before you need to start paying.

That’s some great spin, but at least it’s on the way.  Let’s see what these new features are in 3 weeks.

ServePath’s GoGrid Cheaper than Microsoft’s Windows Azure

… at the very least if you spend more than $150 a month, i.e. on a real application, based on the pricing information available to compare today.

Comparing GoGrid pricing details (on the Business Cloud pre-paid plan) to those for Azure:

  • For Storage, capacity prices are the same but GoGrid provides 10GB free.
  • For Compute, GoGrid is $0.12 per GB-hour as is Azure, but Azure doesn’t specify GBs of RAM, just hours so it’s hard to compare the detail.  GoGrid moves to just $0.10 or $0.08 per GB-hour on higher plans.
  • For Data in/out GoGrid is $0.25 (or $0.20/$0.17 on higher plans) out and FREE in, whereas Azue if $0.15 out + $0.10 in.

Microsoft says it will offer discounts for partners and plan at launch, i.e. still not information available to properly compare.